Bialik’s Classic Works Find New Life Online

March 10 2022

The Hebraic Section at the Library of Congress recently digitized a rich collection of rare children’s books and periodicals in Hebrew and Yiddish (from 1900-1929), including many works by the great poet Ḥayyim Nahman Bialik. Ann Brener highlights one work in particular, Bialik’s children’s tale Ha-Tarn’golim v’ha-Shu’al, or The Chickens and the Fox.

Bialik is often called the “father of modern Hebrew poetry,” but he was that and much, much more: writer, editor, translator, publisher. He contributed stories and poems for children to Hebrew periodicals from Kiev to New York; he founded thriving Hebrew presses that published children’s books in Odessa, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. In addition to all this, Bialik was also a tireless redactor of the ancient Hebrew sources, eager to take the ancient Jewish literary treasures out of the Beit Midrash, so to speak, and make them available to Hebrew readers in general. It was this talent for redaction, together with his unparalleled gift for poetry, that Bialik brought to bear on his rhymed Hebrew tale Ha-Tarn’golim v’ha-Shu’al (The Chickens and the Fox), now a classic of Hebrew children’s literature.

For his story, Bialik turned to one of these old and largely forgotten Hebrew sources, Mishlei Shu’alim, a collection of fox fables written by Berekhiah ha-Nakdan, a Jewish scholar who lived in 12th-13th century France or England. Fox fables were a popular genre in his day, and scholars have noted that Berekhiah could have drawn his fables from any number of existing collections, including Aesop’s Fables, then circulating in various vernaculars, or the French fox fables written closer to his own time by Marie de France. Berekhiah did not so much make up his stories as render them in Hebrew for a Jewish audience.

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More about: Children's books, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Modern Hebrew literature

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine